OPEC supply hits 3-year high on Libya return

Reuters, Wednesday 30 Nov 2011

OPEC's supply is expected to average 30.27 million barrels per day (bpd) this month, up from a revised 29.81 million bpd in October

OPEC oil output has risen in November to a three-year high due to increased supplies from Angola and a further recovery in Libya's production, a Reuters survey found on Tuesday.

Supply from all 12 members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is expected to average 30.27 million barrels per day (bpd) this month, up from a revised 29.81 million bpd in October, the survey of sources at oil companies, OPEC officials and analysts found.

The survey provides little evidence Gulf Arab OPEC producers are curbing output drastically to make way for Libya, a development consumer-country governments will welcome as oil prices remain well above $100 a barrel.

OPEC holds its next meeting on Dec. 14. With oil at $100 plus and Libya's output yet to reach the pre-war rate, analysts and OPEC officials are predicting a low-key gathering unlikely to make major changes to output policy.

"OPEC is on standby until they get a bit more clarity on what's happening in Libya and with Libyan exports," said Harry Tchilinguirian, head of commodity markets strategy at BNP Paribas in London.

"Generally speaking, the market is in balance," an official from one of OPEC's African members said. "Demand is not dropping that much and prices are likely to stay around current levels."

November's total is expected to be OPEC's highest since October 2008, shortly before the group agreed to a series of supply curbs to combat recession, based on Reuters surveys.

Brent crude pared an earlier gain after the survey was released and was trading up 95 cents at $109.95 at 1415 GMT.

The average price in 2011 is on course to beat 2008's record high of $103.40.


The biggest increase in OPEC supply is coming from Angola, where Total's Pazflor field is expanding output.

Pazflor is one of several new projects expected to counter a 2011 decline in supplies from Africa's second-largest producer. Output in November also rose due to extra cargoes of crudes including Girassol and Cabinda.

In Libya, oil exports and refinery demand have amounted to 500,000 bpd in November, according to the survey, up 150,000 bpd from October but some way short of the production figures given by Libyan officials.

Supply in Africa's top producer Nigeria also increased as Royal Dutch Shell's Nigerian venture lifted a force majeure on exports of Forcados oil. But Shell's EA field was shut for maintenance, limiting the supply boost.

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf OPEC allies raised production unilaterally after failing at the group's last meeting in June to convince Iran and other members to agree a coordinated increase to meet a shortfall in supplies from Libya.

After a reduction in October, Saudi Arabia has increased supplies slightly in November due to higher demand from some customers in Asia, sources in the survey said.

Kuwait has also expanded output from an upwardly-revised October total. Nonetheless, sources in the survey have lower estimates of supply than Kuwaiti industry officials, who say the country is pumping 3 million bpd or more.

Ahead of December's OPEC meeting, Iran has called for countries that boosted output in the wake of the Libyan war and oil cutoff - effectively the Gulf Arab OPEC members - to reduce output to pre-Libya crisis volumes.

Gulf OPEC delegates have said they do not see a need for supply curbs yet but that they will curb output to make way for a recovery in Libyan supplies when it happens, although this will probably be a gradual process extending into 2012.

The Gulf Arab OPEC members are typically its most moderate on prices because they do not want high energy costs to restrict economic growth and long-term demand for their main source of export revenue.

One Gulf Arab official told Reuters in September a price of $90 was still "high" and those producers were unlikely to reduce supplies to prop up oil prices unless crude fell below $90 for a sustained period.

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